Hello, this is Simon.
I almost always catch a cold in December. It is not so much because of the drop in temperature, but has more to do with me overcommitting to things in both my work and in private. Both aspects of my life tend to get busy around that time of year, which leads to me getting run down, and then sick. Like clockwork, it happened again this year.
In December, as my work schedule started to fill up so did my weekends. One big reason was the band I’m in got back together after a long Covid hiatus and had a gig in mid December. This required a lot of practice because I had barely touched my guitar in the last couple of years. I had to try and find time to practice at home, plus we also needed several band practices to make sure we did not look like complete idiots when we played. Whenever I saw the opportunity, I would sneak onto my room to try for about 30 minutes of practice. I fumbled as I tried to remember how to play the songs and kept thinking to myself “Don’t give up your day job…”
Miraculously, after about a month of practice, the band managed to a level where we could play in front of people. When we finally played we actually had gotten it together, and had a really good time playing. It was a tiny little stage and we could barely move, but beggars can’t be choosers.
However, a couple of days later I got sick…
That past month I had been extremely busy, because I had packed in too many things in terms of work and play. I had bitten off more than I could chew, and now I was paying for it. My wife told me it was my own fault because I had been burning the candle at both ends. I tried to act nonchalant and told her “You’re barking up the wrong tree!” However, I knew she was right, and eventually I conceded. I tentatively promised to be more careful from next year on, while at the same time thinking “Next December is a whole year away. We’ll see how it goes…”
This piece also contains phrases that my mother often used. They are commonly used expressions that English students may not be familiar with.
“Don’t give up your day job”
This phrase is used to tell someone that they are not good at that particular thing, or that they shouldn’t continue to pursue something such as a dream or a hobby. It is usually said as a joke. It brings to mind a struggling actor who maybe works as a waiter to survive. The actor then goes an audition and performs so poorly that he/she is told they shouldn’t stop being a waiter, or “Don’t give up your day job.”
“we actually had gotten it together”
The phrase to “get it together” in this case means to start to perform, work or function in an effective way (e.g. After hours of brain storming to no avail, our team finally managed to get it together and come up with a great proposal.)
“beggars can’t be choosers”
The phrase “beggars can’t be choosers” means that you should accept or be satisfied with what you are given, in the case that there are no other options (e.g. My parents gave me their car to drive. It’s a little old, but I guess beggars can’t be choosers.)
“I had bitten off more than I could chew”
To “bite off more than one can chew” means to take on more responsibility than you are capable of managing, or to try or do something that is too difficult for your ability (e.g. With just one hour till the deadline and no possible way of completing the assignment in time, he finally realized he had bitten off more than he could chew.)
“burning the candle at both ends”
This has a very similar meaning to the previous idiom. It means to do more than you should and make yourself very tired, by staying up very late and getting up very early in order to do various things (e.g. No wonder he got so sick, he has been burning the candle at both ends for some time now.)
“barking up the wrong tree”
The phrase “barking up the wrong tree” in this case means someone’s reason for a particular outcome is completely wrong (e.g. A: The cake I left in the fridge is gone. I know it was you who ate it. B: You’re barking up the wrong tree. It wasn’t me.) A more common meaning is that someone is taking the wrong course of action in order to achieve something (e.g. If you think this new scheme will make you rich, you are barking up the wrong tree.)
If you have a chance, give some of these a try. See you next month!
Hello! My name is Simon.
I am from New Zealand, and have been living and teaching English in Japan since 1999.
My hobbies include movies, playing the guitar, gardening and hiking.